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Real Kashmir holds back Bengal, ascends to pole position

Kolkata, Dec 28: Debutant Real Kashmir FC’s rock-solid resolve helped it earn a 1-1 draw against heavyweight East Bengal and reach the top of the I-League table for the first time on Friday, here at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, also known as Salt Lake Stadium.

The visiting Kashmir side, which remains unbeaten in six matches, is tied on 18 points with Chennai City FC and Neroca FC but climbs to the top of the table on the basis of better goal difference.

East Bengal is fourth with 16 points.

In the first half, which was a tale of missed opportunities and fine saves, the home side coordinated well and made regular forays into the opposition box but their par finishing marred the sound build-ups.

East Bengal had a fine chance to take an early lead when Jobby Justin floated a beautiful cross from the right, but Jamie Colado’s attempt sailed over the bar. The host continued to spill chances, the next one coming in the 32nd minute when Brandon Vanlalremdika failed to reach a lovely pass from Laldanmawia Ralte.

Real Kashmir, which guarded its post solidly and looked for counter-attacks, also had its share of opportunities.

Abednedo Kofi’s attempt from right was touched away by a jumping Rakshit Dagar under the bar.

Kofi had a better chance in the 29th minute when his attempt off a loose ball inside the box found the keeper. Bazie Armand and Surchandra Singh came close to opening the account but could not break the deadlock in the opening half.

Real Kashmir took the lead within 10 seconds of resumption. Defender Lalram Chullova’s own goal, while trying to clear a Surchandra cross from right, triggered celebrations in the touring camp.

East Bengal drew parity 10 minutes later as Justin slotted home following Danish Farooq’s fine goalline save off a corner.

The home side pressed ahead in search of a winner but couldn’t find its way past Real Kashmir’s steely defence.

RKFC coach, David Robertson said he was happy about the results considering the dominance of local team in Kolkata against visitors.

“It was a big challenge for us. The first half was played well by our boys and they showed consistency. By getting 18 points we are safe enough now to stay in the league,” he said.